• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 13s

In Barrow, climate and cultural research go hand in hand

By Bonney Bowman 6:57 AM February 7, 2014

Science has been a feature on the North Slope for decades

BARROW – Barrow is the biggest city on the North Slope.

It’s home to around 5,000 people, many of them Alaska Natives who’ve called the city home for generations.

They live side by side with one of the most advanced scientific facilities in Alaska, pairing traditional practices with modern innovation.

Kyle Custard and a team of graduate students from Purdue University are studying climate change, examining the air and the plentiful snow for traces of iodine.

They trudge out into the night, snow chamber in hand, battling intense winds and wind chills in the minus-40s. This snow may hold a clue about climate change. It’s something no one else has studied in a place few people think to work.

“Not a lot of people ever come up here this far north and you don’t experience this anywhere else in the world,” Custard said.

Science has been a feature on the North Slope since the 1950s, when the Navy landed in the Alaska Native town to build the Naval Arctic Research Lab, NARL.

The campus is now managed by UMIAQ, part of the local native corporation. Working here requires planning, permits and protection; something the UMIAQ staff provides using their wealth of ancestral knowledge.

They also have workspace at the BARC – Barrow Arctic Research Center.

One of the people using this modern technology to explore the past is archeologist Dr. Anne Jensen.

The BARC’s lab space and deep freezers are ideal for her native artifacts.

Jensen studies the Inupiat people, the ancestors of those who currently call Barrow home.

She said being able to work so near her dig sites is beneficial, both for the artifacts she studies and the community they come from.

“It lets it be here. It lets people come and see it,” Jensen said. “You can take stuff to elders. The stuff is in the community. There’s just a lot of advantages to that.”

UMIAQ leaders say many are surprised to learn about the amenities available for research in Barrow, a place where traditional parkas and skin boats can be found next to snowmachines and pickup trucks.

A lot of the work here is dedicated to climate research, like that done by Custard and his team.

“The Arctic is warming a lot faster that the rest of the planet,” he said. “That’s another big issue.”

The rapid changes, like receding ice and shrinking hunting grounds, are forcing those who rely on subsistence lifestyles to adapt as well, while the latest tools help to forward our understanding of the world around us and how its changes impact those who’ve called the North Slope home for more than a thousand years.

Latest Stories

  • News

    President Obama to announce Denali Commission as lead agency on community relocation project

    by Emily Russell / KNOM on Aug 28, 18:05

    The U.S. Arctic Research Commission was in Nome this week discussing Arctic issues ranging from international shipping to climate change. One presenter in particular unveiled a key detail about an initiative President Obama is expected to announce during his visit to the state next week—involving relocation efforts for rural villages in the face of climate […]

  • News

    Governor issues state disaster declaration for Sitka landslides

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 28, 17:46

    Alaskans suffered the aftermath of several landslides in the Sitka area on Aug. 18, but a state disaster declaration from Gov. Bill Walker’s office on Thursday may help restoration within the community. The landslides claimed the lives of three Sitka men and caused significant damage to buildings, roads and other structures in the area. The […]

  • Politics

    Lawmakers seek Supreme Court intervention in Medicaid expansion

    by Associated Press on Aug 28, 17:44

    Alaska lawmakers have turned to the highest court in Alaska in a last ditch effort to stop the expansion of Medicaid. A state-court judge on Friday rejected the request by lawmakers to temporarily block Gov. Bill Walker from expanding Medicaid while the judge considers the merits of the case. Lawmakers sued after Walker decided to […]

  • Crime

    Teen arrested for allegedly firing multiple shots in South Anchorage

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 28, 17:01

    An Anchorage teen was arrested early Friday morning after he allegedly fired multiple rounds in South Anchorage. The Anchorage Police Department dispatched officers to the area of Driftwood Street and E. 71st Avenue after receiving multiples reports of “anywhere between 12 and 30 shots” being fired, according to an APD statement. Responding officers also heard […]

  • News

    Firefighters battle blaze on Parks Highway

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 28, 15:42

    The Parks Highway is partially closed while firefighters battle a fire at a business near Mile 51, Alaska State Troopers report. The fire was called in at Motor Rage Auto Sales just after 3 p.m., according to Mat-Su Borough Fire Deputy Director Ken Barkley. He says the main building was engulfed in flames and several […]

  • News

    Bicyclist injured in Seward Highway collision

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 28, 14:52

    A bicyclist was taken to the hospital with serious injuries after being hit by a truck on the Seward Highway Friday afternoon. At 12:47 p.m., the Anchorage Police Department was called to the scene of the collision near the intersection of the Seward Highway and Benson Boulevard, police said in a statement. An adult male […]

  • News

    White House releases new details about presidential visit to Alaska

    by Eric Ruble on Aug 28, 14:07

      ANCHORAGE — In a telephone conference Friday, Senior Presidential Advisor Brian Deese provided more information about President Obama’s itinerary and goals for his Alaskan trip. The overarching purpose of the visit, according to Deese, is to bring awareness to climate change and discuss potential solutions. Deese said the president will arrive in Anchorage on […]

  • News

    Kotzebue prepares for President Obama’s visit

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Aug 28, 13:12

    The president will visit the Arctic during his stop in Alaska next week. The White House says President Obama will be in Kotzebue to see how the people are affected by climate change. KTVA’s Emily Carlson shows us how the village is dealing with warmer winters and erosion.